Monthly Archives: September 2014

Get Children to Improve Rather than to Prove

Yesterday’s Campus Seminar* in Helsinki had a delightful set of speakers, ranging from priests to photographers, from hockey coaches to celebrity vloggers. And everything in between.

The afternoon was kicked off with a great presentation by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson on how we should give feedback to students and what the feedback should be about. The bottom line:

This is an excellent piece of advice yet we act against it every day. I know I do, at least. When my 7 year old daughter perfects a cartwheel I say that she is the best gymnast. Or when she reads a text chapter fine I tell her that she is so good in reading. What I should say, instead, is that she had practiced well, done nice progress from last time, spent her efforts wisely, etc.

Whenever possible, we should concentrate on the process and actions rather than on person’s characteristics. On a related note, we should also focus on improving skills at the expense of proving them. Improving is more about the process, proving about the end result. As Heidi puts it, instead of being good, try to get better.

This brings me to one of my favorite topics, testing. High stakes standardized tests are typically organized solely for checking whether the students have learned the things they were supposed to learn. Whether they can prove that they have learned them.

I am not against testing, not at all. I just prefer the Finnish way of embedding tests in everyday teaching and learning activities rather than having them as monsters looming somewhere at the end of the semester.

When tests are conducted often and as a natural part of lessons, they are actually more about improving than proving. By the way, I was happy to notice this morning that MasteryConnect had just closed a serious funding round. Let’s hope they can bring more ad hoc and less high stakes testing also to the US.

This blog entry was only about the first 15 minutes of yesterday’s event. The whole thing lasted for four hours, so there was a lot more going on. The organizers have to do their absolute best to top this lineup in Warsaw in November!

* My employer Sanoma Pro was a sponsor in this event.


Teachers Play a Key Role in Transformation to Digital

I recently blogged about an extensive study my employer Sanoma Pro conducted among Finnish K-12 teachers. Sanoma Pro is part of Sanoma Learning and has sister companies in Sweden, Poland, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Sanoma Learning also carried out a similar study. Highlights of that study from the Finnish point of view are depicted in the infographic below:

Infographic of teacher study

The findings of this study are quite well in line with what we found out locally in Finland. For example, schools need good digitalization plans, devices for pupils and teachers, and especially teacher training. Generally teachers have faith in the digital future. They are confident that digital content and solutions enhances pupils’ motivation, result in better learning outcomes, and support teachers’ daily work.

The one topic that perhaps most clearly separates Finnish teachers from the rest is the position they see themselves in the future. A whopping 98% of the teachers see themselves as playing a crucial role in the digital transformation. I mean, even the average 85% of Sanoma Learning’s business units is very high, but 2 per cent short of a hundred is quite amazing.

It is no surprise, though, if you stop and think of it. Let’s remember that Finnish teachers are highly valued by parents & society and only 1-2 in 10 applicants get in teacher training which is given in universities (they graduate as masters). Teacher’s role is central in Finnish K-12 education and the digital solutions we come up with should not shatter that but foster instead.

A white paper based on the Sanoma Learning study can be found here (pdf).


Sanoma’s Learning Lab hits the right note

John Martin on the upcoming Sanoma Learning Lab.

John Richard Martin

learning-labI love the start of the new school year: it feels like a time of new beginnings and new opportunities. I’m especially excited about the coming semester because we will be running our Learning Lab in partnership with five great innovative schools!

Improving the impact of education on learning

We’re a key partner to schools and frontrunner in the digital transformation in some of the World’s best performing education systems, including Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and also Sweden. We’re deeply committed to supporting excellence and equity in education. And we see that many stakeholders in education are looking for renewal: for improved learning outcomes, for better engagement and for new ways of working. Our goal with this Learning Lab is to co-create new concepts, together with our partners, that help to improve and evidence the impact of education on learning.

In time and in tune with teachers


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Open Education Challenge Finalists Roundup

As I promised in my previous post, now a bit more detail about the cool startups currently going through the Open Education Challenge program. First a clarification: this is not a EC framework project of sorts, but running on private funding. EC is there to support, but VCs run the show financially.

The Open Education Challenge teams and mentors

The Open Education Challenge teams and mentors

And now, the finalists… what a wonderful bunch of entrepreneurs! I got to spend a bit more time with three of them, namely Funbrush, Think with Things, and Harness, but got to meet all of them and exchange at least some ideas.

Funbrush has a truly unique idea of getting kids to spend more time and pay more attention to brushing teeth. They do this by virtue of a cool iPad app where wild animals have food stuck in their teeth and depending on how a child brushes his/her teeth has impact on whether the animal’s mouth gets fully clean or not – what a brilliant approach!

Think with Things is going to develop a solution where the teachers and students can jointly engage in activities with simple physical objects like bottle caps, pine cones, and shapes cut of cardboard. These physical objects have their digital counterparts, as well as ready-made learning journeys where the objects are put to use. The users can tweak the ready-made journeys as well as create their own ones. Being a fan of augmented reality, I see many opportunities to take this further.

Harness does the one thing that we hear from teachers all the time: get all relevant tools from one place, in a unified environment & UI. Their Unio environment has been integrated to and promoted by Edmodo, and no wonder, it is so clean and intuitive.

I also chatted with the KLAP team, who are going to apply analytics & big data techniques to all kinds of learning content, with the aim to personalize learning and outcomes. Very ambitious and important goal to strive for. Cubes Coding is giving physical cubes to kids who can then organize them into a series, which makes a robot do various things in a row. These can be children who cannot even read yet. More of that please!

Domoscio is basically an alert service for reminding you about the things you still need to go through before your important test. I for one surely would’ve liked to have that when I was studying. GroupMooc organizes your MOOC courses into a single unified view. This is a nice service e.g. for large corporations who train their employees with various online courses. Finally, Atta provides a social layer on top of digital content, bringing it to life in form of groupwork and other community activities. I love the ant giving the hint that there is an Atta activity going on.

Helsinki was the first pit stop for these fantastic startups. I wish them best of luck in Paris and other places they are going to visit during this fall when they go through their incubation program. My main message to all of them was (and still is): no matter how much you pivot with your customer base, revenue models, etc., do not lose that one unique thing you started the endeavor in the first place. That is what makes it fun for you. Hopefully, for bunch of others, too.